01 Nov 2023 Admin

Bagpipes at Your Wedding: Adding a Touch of Tradition to Your Special Day

*Updated November 2023


Hiring live wedding bands in Scotland is a popular choice for couples who want to add a special touch of excitement and entertainment to their big day. If you want to add an extra element of Scottishness however, you can’t go wrong with getting a bagpiper. Bagpipes are a timeless musical instrument that have been a staple of traditional weddings for centuries. With their unique sound and cultural significance, bagpipes add a touch of elegance and tradition to any wedding celebration. In this blog, we will explore the history of bagpipes at weddings, the process of choosing the right bagpiper, and the benefits of incorporating bagpipes into your special day.

History of Bagpipes at Weddings

Bagpipes have a rich history in Scotland and Ireland, where they have been a staple of wedding celebrations for centuries. The tradition of bagpiping at weddings dates back to medieval times when bagpipes were played to mark important milestones in a person's life, such as a wedding or the birth of a child.

Over time, the tradition of bagpiping at weddings has evolved, but the cultural significance of this musical instrument remains. Today, bagpipes are still a popular choice for wedding ceremonies and receptions, and many couples choose to incorporate bagpipes into their celebration as a way to honor their cultural heritage and pay tribute to their ancestors.

Bagpipes in Modern Popular Culture

Bagpipes have been featured in a number of famous events over the years. Here are a few notable examples:

- Royal Weddings: Bagpipes have been a staple of royal weddings in Scotland and England for centuries. For example, at the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a military band played bagpipes as the couple made their way to Westminster Abbey.

- Military Ceremonies: Bagpipes are often played at military ceremonies, including parades, memorial services, and veteran's events. In many countries, including Scotland and the United States, bagpipers are a common feature at military funerals, playing "Amazing Grace" or other traditional tunes as a tribute to fallen soldiers.

- Sporting Events: Bagpipes are also often featured at sporting events, such as rugby and football matches. For example, in Scotland, it's common for a piper to lead the team out onto the field before a big game.

- Political and Civic Ceremonies: Bagpipes have been played at a number of political and civic ceremonies, including presidential inaugurations, state funerals, and the opening of parliament. For example, at the 1997 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, a military band played bagpipes as part of the ceremony.

- Music Festivals: Bagpipes are a staple of traditional music festivals around the world, and can be heard at events like the Edinburgh International Festival and the Celtic Festival in the US. Bagpipes are often played as part of folk music groups or by solo performers, and are a popular feature of world music and cultural festivals.

- And bagpipes are fit for royalty - Queen Elizabeth II of England had a long-standing love for bagpipes. She was been a fan of the instrument for many years and had had the opportunity to hear bagpipes played on a number of occasions during her reign. Balmoral Castle, was her favourite residence in the UK, and is a location where bagpipes were often played - indeed, the late Queen Elizabeth would be woken up by the Royal Piper every morning instead of an alarm clock. But even before Queen Elizabeth, the castle had a long tradition of hosting bagpipers, dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria.  Bagpipers are often invited to perform at events held at Balmoral, including royal weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. They also play for the royal family during their summer holidays at the castle, as well as for guests and visitors.

In addition to performances, the royal family is also known to take lessons on the bagpipes. Prince Charles, for example, is said to have taken lessons on the instrument when he was younger, and the Queen has been known to enjoy the sound of the pipes on many occasions. For example, at her coronation in 1953, a group of pipers from the Scottish Guard played as part of the procession. In addition, the Queen has attended many military events where bagpipers have played, including parades and memorial services.

In 2011, the Queen even visited the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual event that showcases Scottish culture, including bagpipes. She is said to have greatly enjoyed the performance and has been a strong supporter of the event over the years.  The Queen's love for bagpipes is a testament to her appreciation for Scottish culture and the role that bagpipes play in British history and tradition.

Choosing the Right Bagpiper for Your Wedding

When it comes to choosing a bagpiper for your wedding, it's important to consider a number of factors. Experience and professionalism should be at the top of your list, as you want to make sure that your bagpiper is well-versed in the art of playing the pipes and can deliver a performance that is both beautiful and memorable.

It's also important to consider the bagpiper's repertoire and versatility. A good bagpiper should be able to play a variety of tunes, from traditional wedding marches to more contemporary pieces. Additionally, you may want to consider recommendations from friends and family, as well as online reviews, when choosing a bagpiper for your wedding.

Scottish Wedding Songs to Play at Your Wedding

When it comes to bagpipe tunes for weddings, there are a number of popular pieces to choose from. For the processional, many couples choose to have the bagpiper play a traditional march, such as "Scotland the Brave" or "Amazing Grace." For the recessional, a lively tune, such as "Flowers of Scotland" or "When the Battle is Over," is a popular choice. Many couples also choose to have the bagpiper play a special tune for key moments during the ceremony, such as the lighting of the unity candle or the exchange of vows. The right tune can add a touch of emotion and significance to these already special moments.

Here is a list of 10 of the most popular bagpipe songs for inspiration:

- "Scotland the Brave"
- "Amazing Grace"
- "Highland Cathedral"
- "The Black Bear"
- "The Flowers of the Forest"
- "The Gael"
- "The Pibroch of Donuil Dhu"
- "The Battle of Waterloo"
- "The Muckin' o' Geordie's Byre"
- "When the Battle's O'er"

It is important to note that the popularity of bagpipe songs can vary greatly depending on the region and the occasion, and this list is by no means exhaustive. Some other popular bagpipe songs include "Danny Boy," "Highland Laddie," and "Mairi's Wedding."

Benefits of Having Bagpipes at Your Wedding

Incorporating bagpipes into your wedding celebration provides a number of benefits. Firstly, bagpipes add a unique touch to your celebration, making your wedding truly one-of-a-kind. Secondly, bagpipes provide a grand entrance for the bride and groom, creating a memorable atmosphere for guests as they make their way down the aisle. Finally, the sound of bagpipes creates a lasting impression, leaving guests with a lasting memory of your special day.

What makes a great bagpiper

A great bagpiper is characterized by a number of qualities, including:

- Technical proficiency: A great bagpiper must have a strong technical foundation, including good finger technique, a steady beat, and the ability to play with consistent volume and tone.

- Musicality: A great bagpiper must have a good sense of musicality, including an ability to play with expression, phrasing, and dynamic control. This includes the ability to play with a wide range of musical styles, from fast-paced jigs to slow, contemplative ballads.

- Repertoire: A great bagpiper must have a strong repertoire of tunes, including traditional Scottish and Irish tunes, as well as more contemporary pieces. A good bagpiper should also have the ability to improvise and add their own unique touch to familiar tunes.

- Performance skills: A great bagpiper must have strong performance skills, including the ability to engage with an audience, connect with other musicians, and bring energy and enthusiasm to their performances. This includes the ability to perform solo, as well as with a band or ensemble.

- Tradition: A great bagpiper should have a deep appreciation for the traditions and history of the instrument, and be able to draw on this knowledge to inform their playing and performance.

How much does it cost to hire a bagpiper?

The cost of hiring a bagpiper can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the location, experience of the piper, type of event, and duration of the performance. On average, bagpipers charge between £200 and £500 for a single performance, but prices can go as high as £1000 (or even more) for more experienced players or for special events.

It is also common for bagpipers to charge additional fees for travel, set-up time, or additional services such as playing during a wedding ceremony. When hiring a bagpiper, it is important to discuss all of your requirements and budget constraints with the piper to ensure that you receive a fair and accurate quote for their services.

Overall, a great bagpiper is someone who brings a combination of technical skill, musicality, repertoire, performance skills, and tradition to their playing, and is able to connect with audiences through the power and emotion of the instrument.

Ultimately, bagpipes are a timeless musical instrument that provides a touch of tradition and elegance to any wedding celebration. By considering the history of bagpipes at weddings, choosing the right bagpiper, and incorporating popular bagpipe tunes into your celebration, you can make your special day truly unforgettable.

So, why not consider incorporating bagpipes into your wedding to bring excitement to your celebration with the lively sound of Highland music. Music for Scotland provides top-notch Scottish entertainment for all types of parties, including birthdays, retirements, anniversaries, Christmas, engagements, graduations, and more. Our talented pipers will add an extra burst of flavor to your event. Contact us now for free, no-obligation advice and recommendations.